Aaditi Pohankar made her Bollywood debut with Lai Bhari. Now she is winning all hearts with her performance in Prakash Jha’s ‘Aashram’.
The series star Bobby Deol and Aaditi Pohankar in the lead roles. Apart from them the film also stars Chandan Roy Sanyal, Darshan Kumar, Tushar in the prominent roles.
While in conversation with UrbanAsian, Aaditi Pohankar opens up about recent project Aashram.
Also about her character Pammi, her experience with co-actors, about the digital space and more.
- Firstly, congratulations as Aashram is receiving such a great response. How are you feeling after receiving so much love from the audience?
Honestly, I feel truly blessed for getting this kind of love and appreciation from the audience. My DMs and messages everywhere are swamped with love and appreciation from all over India for Aashram. I’m so glad that it was for a character like Pammi. The one who portrays courage for the youth because she is a youth herself.
I believe that if the youth change, it will lead to a distinct change in society as we go ahead because the youth are our future. This love and appreciation are only giving me the belief and the determination to work harder and select scripts that will portray such strong characters. There is a message that Pammi is trying to convey, and in the second part, you can see how she eventually goes ahead to slay the dragon on her own merit. I am on top of the world today, very honestly.
How did the come on board for this unique project?
I was called by Prakash Sir to his office and he told me that there was a very interesting role that he had in mind for me. As he started explaining the character, he told me that it was a story of this girl and her courageous act. But there was one concern, she was a wrestler, and that was a very important aspect of her character, as that is how the story went ahead. It is Pammi’s story, the story is seen from her point of view. So being a wrestler and looking like a wrestler was a very very important factor. Because the whole premise of the series was that she could not go ahead in life. As she was from a backward caste or a ‘Dalit,’ and she was suppressed by society.
The point Prakash sir is trying to make is that we all are human beings and we all have equal rights on planet earth, so nobody can be pushed back just because of their caste or creed. I think that is how we went ahead. He told me that the only problem was that I looked like a model and he didn’t know how he could get me to look like a wrestler. So he asked me if I would put in that effort and make myself look like a wrestler if he gave me time. And I thought, ‘wow, what are you asking me, of course, I will!’ And that is how I got on board with this unique project. And I think I did end up looking like a wrestler, unique in its true sense.
In the show we see a young, innocent girl, who goes to the Baba Nirala’s Ashram and ends up becoming the main whistle-blower. What challenges did you face while playing Pammi? Also while shooting for the film?
Yes, she was a very young and innocent girl who was smitten by the baba. Because she believed that he was the one that was vouching for the right things, that he was a righteous man. Pammi had only seen that much life and that was all she knew.
She thought that if you work hard and if you dream about flying high, you would achieve your dreams. She had a veil or blinkers of sorts, where she thought that the baba had come to her rescue. Once she got into this whole muck completely, she experienced several revelations that confused her, and they made her reach a point where she wondered what she got herself and her family into.
So playing Pammi in the first half, it was very very difficult, because I knew the story as Aaditi, but I knew what Pammi was going through.
She was this innocent girl and I knew what was going to happen to her. Yes, she was the whistleblower, and you are seeing the story through her eyes.
I feel like she was completely justified in doing what she did in the second part. Playing the girl, in the beginning, was a bit difficult because of the innocence that the girl had and I knew what was going to happen in the script. The second part was hard as well, after everything that had happened to Pammi.
Living that character was hard, every actor lives their character for a bit, you get connected to your character and their emotions and their vibrations. I did feel extremely bad for Pammi and there were times where even the ADs felt really bad, in certain scenes that were hard to portray. But because of Prakash sir and his guidance and direction, I was very comfortable doing those scenes. It was tough playing both sides.
Is there any similarities between you and the character that you are playing?
Yes, there are similarities between Pammi and me. The innocence of youth, which I really resonate with. Secondly, the dream to fly high, she was a believer, and I am a believer, she was a sportsman and I was one too. I know exactly how that feels, hoping to be a world champion one day, and the feeling and the hard work you put in. That is the ray of light and hope to live in fact, these are our similarities. Also courage, I always stand up for what I believe in. Even in my first series, ‘She,’ my character was very courageous and she realises it as the story unfolds.
In real life do you worship any spiritual personality?
No, I don’t worship any spiritual personality in real life. I believe in the energy that we all have and I believe in that oneness and the divine.
Can you share an interesting incident that happened during the shoot?
were all shivering and jittering. There was an incident where we ordered aloo tikkis and Bobby Deol had too many, and he had to keep running to the bathroom. Secondly, there is a move called ‘Dhobi Pachad’ in wrestling. I haven’t been a wrestler before, didn’t know a thing about it, but I learnt it in 4 days and the first move I tried on Bobby and I actually took him down.
The series has an incredible cast. How was it working with them with Bobby Deol?
I don’t think I could have asked for a better co-actor than Bobby Deol. He has such a childlike innocence and tendency to just be himself. It’s very relieving to see someone like Bobby who has been in the industry for the last 20-25 years, be so down to earth, humble and to the point. There were many times where I used to hesitate to rehearse because I come from a stage, and I love to have as many rehearsals as possible.
So when I wanted to rehearse I was hesitant to ask. There was a time where he came up to me and said ‘Pehelwan, chal, rehearsal karte hai’ and that is how he broke the ice. And after that, it was all good and easygoing. It was a great journey, I would say. And the rest of the cast was also amazing. Tushar, who plays my brother, we had instant chemistry and I think it shows on screen.
You have worked with many directors. What do you like the most in Prakash Jha’s direction?
I have worked with 3 directors till now, starting Nishikant Kamat, Imtiaz Ali, and now Prakash Jha Sir. So there is one thing common between the three of them. Because of the vast experience that they have after working with such talented individuals in the industry, they let the actor do what the actor feels like about the character freely.
There is a lot of improvisation within the limits of the character. I am also a director’s actor, so that is one thing, I really surrender in the beginning. With Prakash Sir particularly, it was just a very beautiful journey I had.
There were days where he would ask me ‘Do you not want to do the scene today, what do you think? It’s gotten late and we are tired, right? So let’s do it tomorrow.’
He wouldn’t force us to finish a scene if we were not in the right state. With important scenes, and there were a lot of them, he would let me take my time, have my freedom, and if there were any changes related to the character that he felt I should be doing, I would immediately execute them. I think Prakash Jha is one of the best directors we have in the country as he really lets the actor flow with the art and be the character freely.
Being an actor of today’s time what do you think about the digital medium? In terms of exploring content or opportunities?
What I think about the digital medium is that it is the future. The future of cinema, the future of content and very good content that too.
In terms of exploring content and opportunities, it is the best space to be. My earlier series, Netflix’s ‘She’ got me so much appreciation from all over the globe. Today if I want to approach anyone even out of the country, I can tell them that they can watch me on Netflix, or on MX Player. So I think in terms of opportunities, people are being more fearless, and they are going ahead with content-driven films and shows. Content has become the king. People are aware, and they want a change.
They want to know more. They want new ways of stories being told, and a different set of talent. May new talents are emerging due to content especially. So there is very healthy competition for actors, directors and writers, and a pool of opportunities for everybody.
Lastly, apart from this, when will your fans get to see you back?
My fans will get to see me soon because I have a lot of work coming up. It is all very exciting and I am extremely excited about it. I’m just praying that the corona situation comes under control soon so that we can start shooting in a healthy and safe atmosphere because that is of paramount importance. So I have a lot of stuff lined up for the next 2-3 years, with a really big bang.
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